Their machine will tell if you’re friend or foe, they say

August 29th, 2014

Veritas Scientific Corporation is — well, it must be — the rare company with technology that surpasses the limitations of what scientists understand.

Veritas is all about deception. In the promotional video here, Veritas Scientific’s founder and CEO Eric Fenn Elbot says that he “started reading incredible research about how to detect brain waves to detect deception, and how to use brain waves to go beyond that, to even, perhaps, be able to identify friend from foe.” Therefore, he went into business….

—so begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

The motorcycle urinal (new patent)

August 29th, 2014

If you sometimes make use of a urinal, and yearn for the sound of revving motorbikes whilst doing so, a new US patent might be aimed at you. Californian inventor Anthony Moley has just received a patent for his “Urinal with operation controlled via a replica of a motorcycle handlebar” The new invention, which provides rearview mirrors, a throttle and a horn is summed up like this :

US08789808-20140729-D00000The urinal with operation controlled via a replica of a motorcycle handlebar is a wall-mounted fixture configured to control the use of the flush valve of said urinal, or toilet, or other plumbing fixture. The replica motorcycle handlebar includes a linkage that runs from the throttle portion of the motorcycle handlebar to the flush valve of said urinal such that upon simulation of a throttling gesture shall pull said flush valve upwardly in order to flush the respective urinal or plumbing fixture. The replica motorcycle handlebar includes a motion sensor that upon detection of a person shall communicate an audio recording of a motorcycle noise. The replica motorcycle handlebar includes mirrors, turn signals, and a horn switch. Throttling motion of the throttle portion may also prompt an additional audio recording of a motorcycle engine being revved.

Hitchcockian Fear-of-Heights Gaze Research

August 28th, 2014

In the tradition of film director Alfred Hitchcock, these researchers watched the way fearful people watched their surroundings whilst walking in fear:

BrandtVisual Exploration during Locomotion Limited by Fear of Heights,” Günter Kugler, Doreen Huppert, Maria Eckl, Erich Schneider, Thomas Brandt [pictured here], PLoS ONE, 9(8), 2014, e105906. The authors, at the University of Munich and Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus – Senftenberg, report:

“Visual exploration of the surroundings during locomotion at heights has not yet been investigated in subjects suffering from fear of heights…. Eye and head movements were recorded separately in 16 subjects susceptible to fear of heights and in 16 non-susceptible controls while walking on an emergency escape balcony 20 meters above ground level…. During locomotion, anisotropy of gaze-in-space shows a preference for the vertical as opposed to the horizontal direction during stance. Avoiding looking into the abyss may reduce anxiety in both conditions; exploration of the ‘vertical strip’ in the heading direction is beneficial for visual control of balance and avoidance of obstacles during locomotion.”

This detail from the study shows the experimental setup:


BONUS: A clip from Hitchcock’s film “Vertigo”:

Tooth-clicking for better Internet browsing?

August 28th, 2014

Tooth-clicking is in its infancy as a means of telling a computer what to do, and when to do it. The hope is that, in a symphony-of-body-parts approach, clicking your teeth will become one of the almost-natural ways you will interact with computing devices….

—so begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

Sam the student’s view of the 2005 Ig Nobel ceremony

August 28th, 2014

Back in 2005, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student named Sam went to that year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony and then to the Ig Informal Lectures. Sam wrote up his impressions:

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Ig Nobel awards ceremony in H****** Square. The “Igs,” sponsored by a bunch of Mensa nerds actual Nobel Laureates from both H****** and MIT, celebrate nontraditional research in a variety of disciplines. This year, awards were bestowed upon ten leading researchers from four different continents for answering some of the following questions:

1. Do people swim faster in water or in syrup?
2. What internal pressures are observed upon penguin defecation?
3. Are neutered pets somehow less happy than regular pets?
4. What about Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is most appealing to a common cricket?
5. How can we best improve our nation’s economy?
6. Why bother to photograph and retrospectively analyze every meal you’ve eaten over a period of 34 years?…

6. Why bother to photograph and retrospectively analyze every meal you’ve eaten over a period of 34 years?

Well, I’m not sure this one has a clear answer, really. Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats, winner of the Ig Nobel in Nutrition, delivered perhaps the most inspiring and concise acceptance speech at the Ig Nobel ceremony:

“Life is long … should be longer … speech … should be shorter … Good night.”

Or perhaps this profound, almost poetic summation of the human condition merely seemed to be a brief moment of clarity amidst an opera dedicated to counting to infinite, programs being folded into paper planes and thrown at the stage (sometimes during the speeches of actual Nobel Laureates) and 24/7 speeches on animal morphology, primate locomotion, the purpose of life. The lattermost of these consist of speeches of 24 seconds that convey “everything there is to know” about a topic and then 7 words that summarize it in a manner that is “understandable to everyone.” Anyway, all this commotion left me with quite a favorable impression of Dr. Nakamats.

Then some other people on my floor went to the free Ig Informal lectures and discovered some more about Dr. Nakamats, as well as getting the distinguished scientist to autograph their program for him….


Read Sam’s entire assessment, on the MIT Admissions Blog.

Dr. Nakamats will be returning this year, to give the keynote address at the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony on September 18, and then to do a brief talk at the Ig Informal Lectures on September 20.

(We do not know what Sam is doing these days, or where he is doing it.)

Here’s video of the entire 2005 Ig Nobel ceremony. Dr. Nakamats is awarded his prize at about the 1:08:40 mark: